Saturday, June 27, 2009
Ryan Air, You're a Very Good Friend.
I remember the days of booking flights in the US. NYC to Chicago - $200+. NYC to LA - $300+. NYC to San Francisco - $300+. Even cheap train tickets to Philly, Boston, and DC hovered in the $75+ range. So needless to say, Ryan Air's regular 0 euro sales, or 1.99 euro sales TO OTHER COUNTRIES makes for very good instant gratification purchases.
Our first year here in Italy we'd look longingly on the Ryan Air website imagining all the trips we could theoretically be on. Because of getting set up in Italy, and trying to figure out how work schedules would shape up, we were light on our trigger finger when it came to clicking that "Purchase Tickets" button. But a Christmas trip to Germany finally whet our appetites for Ryan Air, and left us wanting much more.
Now, a year later, with renewed contracts for work in 2010, the days of $200+ purchases on expedia.com are a thing of the past. For no more than 10 euro a ticket, we're not only crossing borderlines, but we're seeing cultures change before our eyes with trips that last little more than an hour. It's a far cry from the culture shock (or lack thereof) one gets from leaving NYC's Penn Station and arriving at DC's Union Station, or taking off in San Francisco and landing in LAX. The different pronunciations of "water" between Boston, NYC, Philly and DC don't count as a different dialect, and overusing the word "hella" doesn't count as a new language (unless we count my one trip to the South - sorry readers from Georgia, but I needed my own dictionary to understand what was going on at The Waffle House every morning).
While you might not be jetsetting in the lap of luxury with Ryan Air, with most flights under 2 hours, you'll be on the beaches sunbathing in Greece, eating tapas in Barcelona, or climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris in no time. But there are rules to playing the Ryan Air game:
*Be flexible when you go. Thursday to Monday is the perfect weekend getaway, and when flights are relatively inexpensive. Also, traveling the summer is when the prices are double, and most places are so hot you can't bare to be away from the beach, or out of air conditioning for more than a minute (that is, if your hotel has it!). Instead, opt for May or September when the weather is still good and you can avoid the large tour groups of high school kids at every corner.
*Carry on! If you find a tax-free flight or a zero euro flight the company has to make money somehow, so they charge you 10 euros for each bag you check in, and 10 euros for in person check-in (online check-in = free!). Our rule is, don't pay for anything extra that you can simply and easily do yourself. Bring a carry on and do online check-in. Save the 20 euros and spend it on a couple pitchers of sangria in Barcelona. (Or 5 potato pancakes in Frankfurt.)
*If your heart's set on a city, start looking in advance. Most of the good (and cheap) flights, as well as the sales, are promoted 3 months or so in advance. Sign up for the newsletter, and jump on the sales for 5 euro flights to London or Brussels, Madrid or Budapest, or... the list goes on and on. I recently booked a (one way) flight from Paris to Bologna for 10 euros tax included back in April for a trip in July. It would cost me more to go to Rome or Florence for a weekend.
*Take a chance on a new city. When we were looking for Brussels, we found Amsterdam. When we were looking for Munich, we found Bari. When we were looking for Dublin, we found Barcelona. And of course, when we were looking for Prague, we found Frankfurt. And although Frankfurt wasn't on our top 10 list (or even top 20), when we found that cheap, cheap flight out of Bologna for Christmas, we took a chance, booked, and fell in love with the Christmas Market.
So, hello Frankfurt! Hello Amsterdam! Hello Puglia! Hello Barcelona! And hello to all future 10 euro (tax included!) trips to come! (And yes, the above mentioned flights altogether cost less than a one way ticket from NYC to Chicago.)